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Teaching Philosophy

Volume 36, Issue 1, March 2013

James Pearson
Pages 31-49
DOI: 10.5840/teachphil20133613

Asking Students What Philosophers Teach

This essay argues for the value of teaching a unit that questions what it is that philosophers teach as a way of encouraging students to reflect on the nature of philosophy. I show how using ancient philosophy to frame this unit makes it especially urgent, since an important (and often overlooked) consequence of Socrates’s demarcation of philosophy from oratory is that philosophers are not in a position to teach anything. I have found that students are eager to engage the challenge that this seems to pose for the contemporary philosophy classroom. Further, they can self-reflectively employ philosophical analysis to identify and critique ways of justifying what they learn from teachers of philosophy.

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